Lena Derhally, author of the Facebook Narcissist shares what is, narcissism, what is the difference between, narcissists, psychopaths, and other personality disorders. Lena shares her research on why, narcissists, commit, mass shootings, and why they are using, social media, to get attention.
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Lena Derhally is a licensed psychotherapist certified in Imago Relationship Therapy. She was formerly a clinical instructor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the George Washington School of Medicine, where she mentored medical students. Lena is passionate about antiwar movements and social justice, and Author of the Book The Facebook Narcissist A comprehensive guide for understanding how narcissism on social media impacts our mental health, how to protect ourselves and our children from those affects as well as from narcissists, and how to use social media more mindfully.
Myrna: How did you transition from a psychotherapist into behavioral sciences? Do you have a personal story?
Lena: I got really interested in, narcissism criminology, when they called it, personality disorders. Because when I was in my 20s, I was in a relationship with a, narcissist. So that was very verbally emotionally abusive, and it really informed my career path and I’m in a private practice now. But what I really wanted to do. I used to work with cancer patients and I work with mentally ill homeless people. And then I transitioned to working in couples work, but part of what I do with couples and individuals is I help them identify red flags and, abusive relationships.
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Narcissistic abusive relationships
And it’s always been a passion of mine, especially with women of course. Men can be in, abusive relationships, but really to help women recognize that. There’s a lot of, abusive relationships, out there. I think more than that even reported, and so it’s really just been a passion of mine, just to help people and not just in, relationships, as we move to the topic of, mass shooting, for media narcissism. My first book was a true crime, about a family annihilator who murdered his pregnant wife and toddler daughter so he could be with another woman.
And that book was also to sort of break down for people because he showed no warning. They really wanted to break it down. So, people sort of see well how does something like this happen? How does somebody have this mask on for so long and then take it off and become really evil? I sort of explore these, narcissistic, people in hopes that we can educate people because I think protecting ourselves from these toxic people is one of the fundamental skills of life especially for younger people.
Myrna: I absolutely love this topic. And it’s really interesting, but I became psychological linked to, narcissism, after reading a book called “The Psychopath Next Door.” And that story resonated with me. I read that maybe even like 20 years ago, but I always resonate with that story of a how a, psychopath, and, narcissism.
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Difference between a narcissist and a psychopath
I’m not even sure what the difference is. Between the two them, but how they can just plan to destroy you. Like just if you said this gentleman that killed his pregnant wife and, and child because he wanted something else and to me, that’s the link for the, narcissism, and, psychopaths, because they can destroy you without a conscience without a thought.
Just so that maybe they can get to the other side or whatever. So, I have I have actually loved this topic. I don’t do enough of them on the show, but I talk to people every day about, narcissism, and I’m glad that you as you said, a lot of people are these, relationships. And I want to say beautiful, but it’s not really beautiful.
I want to say the amazing thing about these people. Is that oh you know, we’re gonna get into the basic, narcissist, and the, mass shooters. But the, narcissist, that I know that I’ve heard about or read about who charming, they’re beautiful, they’re the life of the party and you would not yes, yeah, yeah. Do you want?
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One of the important things you brought up is that there’s a common theme with, narcissist sociopath, psychopath, and that’s low to no empathy and that is working with the ability to destroy other important content just to get ahead. Even if it’s just throwing someone under the bus at work. It doesn’t have to be a murderer, but it’s just the, lack of conscience, no empathy, and they don’t feel remorse and I think it’s really hard for people.
I call quote unquote, normal people or people who are not who don’t have these, antisocial traits. to even understand that somebody can’t feel remorse or empathy. But that’s again, that’s why we’re talking about this is because you don’t you want to cut those people off. You don’t want to have anything to do with self-protection.
The connection between mass shooting and social media
Myrna: So right off the bat, I want to get into the, social media, stuff so I’m questions I have here is what is the connection between, mass shootings, and social media breaks it down for us?
Lena: It’s a great question, and there’s a lot of connections. I’m gonna break them down. One, you know, the social media culture that we have today especially, we’re looking at these, mass shooters, they’re getting younger, they’re getting deadlier, and 2022 alone, almost all of them are under the age of 22. So, one of the things they’re very much inundated and enmeshed in the, social media culture. In fact, I found there’s a counterterrorism expert is John Cohen. Who said almost every, mass shooting, attack in the past few years, was inspired by online communities and threats were made online as well.
So, one social media is inspired by the, mass shooting, and all of us some of the examples unfortunately, we’re still fresh from some of the most prolific, mass shootings, we’ve seen between revolving buffalo, just to name a few. And so, we’ll start you know, with Buffalo all the evidence we have.
I don’t use their name because again, today with social media what they’re interested in is notoriety and, and so this is why we’re seeing them live streaming, mass shooting, you know, they don’t cover their face, they go in there with a death wish they know that maybe they’re going to commit suicide or they’re gonna get killed, but they want me talking about them and social media.
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What is narcissism
It’s what, narcissism, is all about attention seeking, grandiosity and title that they think they’re better than other people and, and the, lack of empathy. And so, social media, has given people with this wish to flip their misery and hatred and rage on other people that audiences really want the audience. And so that’s really dangerous.
But he was also found media people and one of the things I researched in my book was this concept of, white supremacist, radicalizing young men online and one of the ways they do this is they start off a little bit vague. They have the team so they show that the spicy humor, but they’re actually very effective, and they’re, racist.
When we’re talking about really serious issues like, racism, we should just be able to say anything about any group of people cuz it’s a joke, you know, so that’s the way they start. You try to break these socially isolated, lonely young men who have other kinds of issues going on. And then now they have the community on the dark web.
Myrna: It’s almost like the drug dealers recruiting lonely people in the olden days.
The narcissist in the online community
Lena: So, imagine now the network’s they have, it’s almost like international. So, a lot of the times these people in these networks are egging them on to do these kinds of things. And so now here they are, or they want to impact the community.
They want the sort of badge of honor. I had this quote from the shooter from Buffalo, who, you know, we have the information that I think that he was radicalized online. I believe it’s 2021, He wrote, it’s time to stop shit posting it’s time to make a real life effort. I will carry out an attack. He said this is December 2021. So, again, I’m seeing these killers that are putting their attention on, social media.
Myrna: Why do you think the Buffalo shooter targeted the Black community? How did, racism, get into, mass shooting?
Lena: So if you think about something like, racism, and, narcissism; narcissism is an entitlement, exploitation and, lack of empathy. There’s a hallmark of what it actually is. And, racism, is all about, I don’t know. And the, lack of empathy, I am better than better than you, and you are lower than me, you know, and so I think he probably already had these traits and then online communities exacerbated, and bring it out and really kind of normalized it.
The narcissist and mass shootings
Myrna: So that’s I understand, narcissism. Why does, narcissists, now go out and kill a bunch of people? Can you make the connection? Why is the, narcissist, a, mass murderer, all of a sudden?
Lena: I believe that the university has done a lot of research on violence and a lot of my work too. I focus on violence prevention. And his work found that the majority or I say a significant majority or significant number of, mass shooters, are what you would call, narcissists. And, looking at, again, FBI profilers and counterterrorism experts and people who profile the, mass shooters, all agree that the common theme here is the word inclusion as well.
And so there’s a score to settle with the higher levels in rage and I feel that something was done to me and I’m angry. That’s why another connection that we see with these shooters is they’ve been bullied. There’s another part when we’re just talking about empathy as a society. I think we need to do so much more work just on bullying in general because I also think that bullying is part of what pushes people over the edge and makes them want to settle the score. And, you know, again, there’s no excuse for what they do ever.
There’s a type of, narcissism, called, covert narcissism, where there’s a lot of anger and rage about not being recognized for how special you are. So, I think they are really like, I’m going to show you that I am special. I’m so angry and I don’t have empathy and I’m just going to go take out my anger on people and cause pain. There’s a lot of times also, there’s another common theme with a lot of, mass shooters, and that can also be sexual assault. Different variations of abuse or drugs in their home of origin.
Bullying is usually the trigger for these mass shootings
Myrna: So why is it let’s say that you’re an aggrieved person being bullied by high school students? Why do you go to the elementary schools and kill babies?
Lena: I think, you know, again, that’s going back to the, narcissistic, behavior they want to be recognized so what’s going to be the biggest thing? They want other people to suffer and what’s going to bring them the most attention than killing people’s children. You’ve all seen what happened at Sandy Hook. I think that was the worst thing you’ve ever seen in this country.
Myrna: Yes, I agree Sandy Hook was brutal, so was Parkland and Columbine.
Myrna: You started off our conversation today by saying that you were in a, narcissistic relationship, in your early 20’s and one of the things that you do now is to counsel women on how to recognize the signs and get out of these relationships. So, what are some of the signs and personality traits of a, narcissist, in a relationship?
Lena: When you’re in a romantic situation, or even a friend, right? They just really lay on the flattery when we want to read you over in, narcissism, world. We call it rock climbing. And so, this is always a big red flag. I tell people like if after one week they tell you they love you and want to move in, that’s a red flag.
Myrna: I’m laughing because I always quote Halle Berry, she said her mother told her that “anything that looks too good to be true usually is.” She had a really bad relationship with David Justice.
Lena: Yeah. And so yeah, there is manipulation. And I think most of us actually kind of know. Some people get a weird feeling about that a friend who does this type of love bombing. Narcissists, are like Jekyll and Hyde. There are two personas and this is also a dynamic for, abusive relationships. It doesn’t have to be physical abuse, there’s emotional verbal abuse as well. I think whenever you’re walking on eggshells around someone and you feel anxious all the time, it is time to leave.
The red flags to watch for in a narcissist
You never know if they’re gonna like flip on you or that, that’s a big sign. The gaslighting which is like making the reality telling you Oh, you’re too sensitive, that they’ll say something really horrible to you. And then they’ll get upset and you’re the problem.
You’re the problem, you’re too sensitive. You need to go to a therapist. They’ll make you almost go into a place where you’re questioning your sanity. So, there’s all kinds of things they do. Financial abuse, controlling, they isolate you. A lot of times, narcissistic, people don’t want you to be around your friends and family.
Myrna: Yeah, I agree. Because you know, they know once you start talking to more people and more people are like, hey, are you sure you really wanted to stay in this relationship?
Lena: They also don’t want you to leave because, narcissists, they love attention. So basically, the motivations are attention seeking, feeling special, but also things like little, empathy, because they’re so centered on themselves. They don’t have, empathy, for others.
The entitlement, I’m better than other people. I deserve more than other people. I deserve special treatment, special privileges and the exploitation which is why you have so many people in real positions of power from politicians to people like Harvey Weinstein. That is true. exploitation.
Narcissistic abusive relationships
Myrna: Wow, so we know that it’s hard to get out of, abusive relationships, because you’re kind of mentally tied to this person and that manipulation. How do you coach people to know that their boyfriend or girlfriend is a, narcissist, to get out and run?
Lena: I’m also a couple’s therapist. I will get people who actually can be helped, and sometimes I’ll have people call me and say, oh, my mom or my friend thinks my husband or my boyfriend is a, narcissist, and I’ll get some more information and usually I’m like, I don’t do couples therapy with, narcissists, because it doesn’t really work. I mean, it can but it depends on the scale of, narcissism.
Book: The Facebook Narcissist
Myrna: So tell us about your book “The Facebook Narcissist” why you wrote it and I love your first book “ My Daddy is a Hero” you can also talk about that as well.
Lena: The Facebook narcissist is a guide to identify and protect yourself and your loved ones from, social media narcissism, and it was really inspired to help my kids. They’re not teenagers they are in elementary school, but close inspired by this idea of everything we’re getting bombarded with on social media and what it’s doing to our culture from influencers and celebrities to Family Feud to catfishing from fidelity to cyber bullying, cyber stalking, trolling. You know, there’s a chapter about false narrative.
What does it mean when people create a narrative on social media? How that links to, narcissism. So, each chapter is a different theme and how, social media, is linked to, narcissism, and then one of the last chapters is about, racism, politics, social media, and how that leads to, narcissism, as well. And so, it’s just a comprehensive guide about how, narcissism, on social media is impacting all of us and how it’s consuming it and what does it mean when we’re consuming all this content that’s being put out by, narcissists.
So, it’s not just who hears it on social media, but what is it doing my mental health when I’m exposed to all of it? Whether it’s vanity, whether it’s bullying, trolling, like what is it doing to me and my family, and how do I want to use it mindfully? How do I want to raise my children to use it in a way? So, it’s basically just a guide, giving people a lot of information and there’s questions at the end of every chapter that makes people think about how they want to use social media for them and their kids.
True crime narcissisms
There’s a couple of parenting chapters. I think one of the interesting is chapter two, how much should we should be posting about our kids on social media and so I’m not telling them what to do but giving them a sense of the consequences. Okay, there’s a lot of case studies and it’s even here about real, narcissists, on social media. So, it’s, it’s got everything in there.
And then my first book is a true crime. And it’s called “My daddy as a hero.” How Chris Watts didn’t show any traits of a, narcissist. It’s about the Watts family murders which took place in Colorado in 2018. Where this man again, opposite actually, and this is why I wanted to write about it because he had all the opposite traits of a, narcissist, except with a little bit closer look it was there all the time. He was very shy, quiet, from birth all his life. His wife was the more controlling one in the relationship.
And then he just again, he met this woman at work and his wife took the kids to be family in North Carolina for five weeks and within that time period, he decided, again, going from love bombing to devalue and discard, he decided that his family had no use. And it wouldn’t be easier to kill them than to divorce the wife. I mean, it was a brutal killing
So that was a narrative storytelling about this crime, victimized either their relationships, they even have now had all their text messages and transcripts. And so, I told the narrative story, and then there’s a psychological analysis of the different types of, narcissism, and analyzing him and making the case that you know, essentially a, psychopath, and a, narcissist, that was a good of hiatus from those places.
I’m on Instagram @ therapywithLena and my websites is www.LenaDerhally.com You can also connect with me on LinkedIn.